Out of the Past
History Lessons 

Attack on Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona after Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona after Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
address at the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., on December 8, 1941

Known as Hawaii Operation or Operation AI at the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. 

From what is known about Japanese motives, the attack's purpose was to prevent the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Deceit at Pearl Harbor?

In a book published in 2001, retired military officers Kenneth Landis and Rex Gunn accused President Roosevelt of treason for allowing the attack of December 7 to take place with prior knowledge of the Japanese intentions.

Their allegations were not new, having been raised in eight separate Congressional investigations dating back to 1945 that produced no evidence of Roosevelt's foreknowledge.

Deceipt at Pearl Harbor, however, was based on a previously undisclosed transcript of a radiotelephone conversation between Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on November 26, 1941, in which Churchill explicitly warns the President of the impending attack. The transcript quotes Churchill:

"Their forces are moving across the northern Pacific and I can assure you that their goal is the (conversation broken) fleet in Hawaii. At Pearl Harbor."

Historian Edward Steers, Jr. debunks the transcript in his book, "Hoax: Hitler's Diaries, Lincoln's Assassins, and Other Famous Frauds," in which he cites American historian John Lukacs's 2002 exposure of the transcript as a fabrication he believes was created by Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Muller for the purpose of gaining favor with his American captors after the war. Lukacs searched the German archives for the original transcript of the alledgedly intercepted conversation without success, but cites an interview with one of the British women who monitored transatlantic phone calls for British intelligence during World War II saying the language in the transcript was "far too lurid, too coarse of language, and grammatically incorrect" for the Roosevelt and Churchill she monitored.

"Lukacs sees a sinister motive behind forgeries like the radiotelephone transcript between Churchll and Roosevelt," Steers writes. "He points out that certain historians have attempted to rehabilitate Adolf Hitler which blackening the images of Churchill and Roosevelt."

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Hitler's Diaries, Lincoln's Assassins, and Other Famous Frauds
by Edward Steers Jr.
The University Press of Kentucky, 2013

This book recounts and debunks six of the most notorious hoaxes in history:  the Hitler diaries,  the "missing link" fossils, the Shroud of Turin, missing pages from the journal of John Wilkes Booth, the Anthon Transcript of Joseph Smith, and the  evidence that President Franklin Roosevelt had advance warning of the attach on Pearl Harbor.

Japan 1941
Japan 1941
Countdown to Infamy
by Eri Hotta
Knopf, 2013

This history recounts the eight months leading up to Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor and engage the United States in all-out war. It was a fateful decision for the Japanese, initiating a conflict that was preventable and unwinnable. The only way to understand it is to approach it from the viewpoint of the Japanese people, as historian Eri Hotta has done here.

The Japanese leadership, including the military and Emperor Hirohito, was very much divided over questions of military expansion and engaging the U.S. in warfare. Hirohito frequently expressed his desire that diplomacy supercede any planning for war, but as supreme commander of the armed forces he had to ensure the survival of Japan and in the end it was a combination of dysfunctional politics and  jingoistic advisors that pushed the acquiescent emperor to approve a war plan that a more assertive leader could have vetoed.

In April of 1941, Japan's foreign minister, Yosuke Matsuoka returned from Germany and Russia after affirming his country's alliance with Hitler and signing a neutrality pact with Stalin, thereby assuring - in his mind - the security of Japan.

"To shake hands with Germany is a temporary excuse to shake hands with the Soviet Union," he told his secretary, 'but that hand shaking with the Soviet Union is also nothing more than an excuse to shake hands with the United States."

Matsuoka believed that this alliance of 'have-not' powers would pressure the United State, an arrogant 'have' power, into making conciliatory diplomatic gestures.

"Japan would then be able to live in a peaceful world - or the world according to Matsuoka - without having to fire one bullet," Eri Hotta explains.


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